Sears Pointless at HooptieCon: Of Car Shows, Cooking Contests, and Crapcannes

Like any other good convention, the inaugural HooptieCon has left the 24 Hours of Lemons staff with a bit of a hangover. Sure, it’s metaphorical (mostly) in this case, but we had a ton of fun on the show side of Sears Pointless at HooptieCon Confusingly Presented by Yokohama. And we’re coming around from the exhaustion enough to recap a whirlwind day at Sonoma Raceway.

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HooptieCon arose from the hope to bring together a lot of car-show and fringe-automotive groups in one place. Since Lemons already has an annual race at Sonoma, that meant simply adding more than 300 show cars to the 170 racing on the track at Sonoma Raceway. It also meant parade laps for those who stuck around after the checkered flag, a perfectly janky cooking contest, and some community bonding over a film festival.

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Radwood provided the biggest percentage of the car show. That meant more than 250 cars from the 1980s and 1990s registered for the event with many attendees wearing period-correct attire while a DJ cranked out radio hits from the era. Was it awesome? No, it was rad.

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The variety of Radwood cars was pretty wild with everything from a Plymouth Arrow to a menagerie of exotics, including Bruce Canepa’s Porsche 959. Not everything was in “collector condition.” The Radwood folks welcomed countless daily drivers, driving projects, and all-original workhorses so long as they fell within the two relevant decades.

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To that end, the show even included a 1980 Trabant. Few would call the tiny East German car “rad,” but the little Trabby made a lot of new fans and its owners had as much fun as anyone we saw all day.

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Radwood handed out a number of awards with Best in Show going to a Lamborghini Jalpa, one of the oft-forgotten 1980s products from the Italian builder. The Lambo seemed like a perfectly reasonable parking partner for a searing-red Ducati Supersport 900.

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If you’re going to bring something like, say, a Bitter SC—actually, it was supposed to be two Bitters, but one  broke down on the way to HooptieCon—you must dress the part of someone who dropped $50,000 on an obscure German luxury car in the late ‘80s while your friend in Benetton gear takes an important business call.

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In the nearby second show lot, cars from Billetproof, Concours d’Lemons, the Arcane Auto Society, Gambler 500, Lemons Rally, and FIAT Club America offered even more outsider car-show fodder. The Billetproof rides epitomize old-school cool: No billet anywhere, just 1950s-style cars and customs with both pristine finishes and breathtaking patina.

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Billetproof also included the “Prius Killer,” a Cummins-powered amalgamation of fantastically bizarre construction. It’s based on a Dodge truck, but the build includes a John Deere combine and a few dozen other vehicles, plus the remnants of sad Priuses (Prii).

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The Concours d’Lemons made the Cadillac Allante its features marque for 2018 (much to Allante Owners’ unamused chagrin). Lo and behold, two Allantes (one belonging to Cd’L perpetrator Alan Galbraith) turned up to turn up their noses at “real Allante owners.” This one, whose owner wished for anonymity so he could still source replacement parts from “real Allante owners,” took home the Worst of Show prize from Concours d’Lemons at HooptieCon.

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The overlap between the Arcane Auto Society and Concours d’Lemons is significant and the Arcane crew brought some extremely obscure and genuinely cool stuff, like a two-cylinder Toyota Sports 800 and this DAF from the Netherlands. The face looks vaguely snakelike, doesn’t it?

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Likewise, the small FIAT America turnout included a ‘95 Barchetta and a classic Fiat 124 Spyder. More planned to show up, but they seemed to have brought modern counterparts because, well, they own Fiats. Sorry, the jokes write themselves.

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This author’s personal favorite was the MGB-GT that turned up with the small Gambler 500 crowd. The off-road adventure rallies have grown immensely popular for catering to the low-buck audience with off-roading using “impractical vehicles.” A two-seat British sports car certainly fits that bill. This GT still had the original knock-off wheels, the original 1.8-liter engine, and stance that would intimidate some Jeep owners.

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Finally, a small contingent of West Coast Lemons Rally vehicles turned up, including a diesel Mercedes Finback, a Cadillac Eldorado, an Australian-market Mini Wagon, a Chevy Vega, a Volkswagen Minibus, and an AMC Pacer. You know what car looks incredible at all times? A mid-’70s Eldorado.

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While the show lasted throughout the length of the day, HooptieCon offered the chance to take a few parade laps at the end of the day. The parade laps mixed in all the groups, which meant you’d get fantastic moments with 1980s sports cars in front of hot rods with a Trabant or a convertible-ized Ford Explorer behind that. It was a great, weird mishmash of vehicles and for the most part, people seemed into what other cars were running around. You can see and download tons of free high-resolution photos from the parade laps on Lemons’ SmugMug page.

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Lemons’ Chief Perp Jay Lamm took the Upside-Down Camaro for a ride on the parade laps.

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The evening pressed on with the Great Engine-Heat BBQ Cookoff, where all food had to be cooked only with engine heat. Judges Jason Cammisa, Mike Musto, Jay Lamm, and Alan Galbraith pooled their resources to try rotary-rotisserie pork tacos, manifold-cooked bacon on BLTs, sous vide surf ‘n’ turf, hotel-dish-heated pulled pork sliders, and corn chips. No, really: Someone made corn chips.

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Tired Iron Racing, who have run more than 30 Lemons races, won for Best Food with the sous vide setup on their Miata. They fashioned it from a $5 thrift-store pressure cooker and mounted it so it poked through the hood. The driver had the ability to monitor the process, meaning that they were also making sure the temps were right while driving wheel to wheel to 170 other cars.

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In the end, their food turned out magnificently, which earned them the top prize of Richard Simmons Diet Book from 1980 (which was totally not bought from a thrift store hours earlier). Not only did they win the cooking contest, the team also finished 6th place overall in the race and was making plans to cook during the Thunderhill race in May, too.

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However, Myopic Motorsports—known for their increasingly eclectic themes—-took a completely different tack to the competition, which earned them the Best Cooking Technology. Instead of cooking food with the engine, they used the engine’s accessory belt to run what was basically a gear-driven extruder. They poured cornmeal into the hopper, started the engine, and then let the spiral bit inside cook the mix into what were essentially off-off-brand Fritos.

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The whole process was completely surreal, but it did indeed produce long strings of corn chip that could be cut into smaller chips. They were even remotely edible. This might be the most creative thing we’ve ever seen at a Lemons race and that’s saying something.

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HooptieCon finished with Crapcannes, a clip show-style film festival of Lemons caliber with plenty of non-Lemons content mixed in like Driving While Awesome’s Mitsubishi Mighty Max review.

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Surprisingly, everything came together nicely for a first-time event, something that is encouraging for more HooptieCon events down the road. Click below for a gallery with more photos from HooptieCon and you can download free high-res versions on Lemons’ SmugMug page.

Roadkill Fall 2016 Cover